When you get arrested on a DUI offense, you will get arraigned in court to take a plea. You could be worried about how the offense will affect your life or your job. At an arraignment, you will get the opportunity to know the offense you get charged with, your rights and the available bail options.
Additionally, you will have an opportunity to take a plea before the trial proceeds. The court will expect you to take a no-contest plea, not guilty plea, or guilty plea. Getting a DUI lawyer to advise you is vital in safeguarding your future. There are advantages and disadvantages to every plea. We at the Jonathan Franklin DUI Attorney will discuss what each option means to your case as well as represent you if you are facing DUI charges in Los Angeles.
Taking a Guilty Plea
When facing DUI charges, how you plead to the charges is crucial for your case. If you choose a no contest or guilty plea, you will receive sentencing by the court and the trial will end immediately. Unfortunately, you will also not have a chance to fight against a conviction that will go to your criminal background.
Many of those that plead guilty do not understand or do not know the consequences of it. Once one has entered a guilty plea, it is almost impossible to withdraw and change it. Pleading guilty waves your right to get tried by a jury and allows a judge to punish you as they deem fit. This conviction will go into your record when you could have fought it.
Pleading not Guilty
Most lawyers will advise their clients to plead not guilty to DUI offenses. When you enter a not guilty plea, you get an opportunity to fight the allegations against you, some of which may be based on a misunderstanding. You get a right to have a jury try you, explain your side of the story and get a lawyer to defend you.
Once you take a not guilty plea, the judge will schedule a pretrial date. This is typically usually within ninety days from when you got arraigned. During this time, your attorney and yourself will evaluate the evidence the prosecution has against you.
Sometimes, before an arraignment, a prosecutor may offer you a plea bargain. This is, however, only available if you agree to plead guilty of the charges. Once you enter a not guilty plea, you mostly say you are not interested in the plea bargain offered by the prosecution. However, your lawyer can still pursue a plea bargain before the trial commences.
Plea bargains are available even when you are guilty of the offense, and through your lawyer, you can get one. This is essentially a negotiation where the prosecutor agrees to charge you with a lesser offense instead of the more severe one, but you need to plead guilty to it.
This makes it more important not to plead guilty to an offense before you know the relief you could be shutting yourself against. Always consult your lawyer before taking any plea. When you plead not guilty, you keep your case active, and you can question the evidence the prosecution has. You will also have an opportunity to explore different offers the prosecutor may provide you in exchange for a guilty plea.
The prosecutor will present you with a deal before arraignment and attempt to persuade you that no other better deal is available. However, consulting your lawyer before making a decision is always the best. If you know you are innocent or the prosecution has a weak case against you, you do not need the deal.
Plea bargains are usually offered with a time limit to accept them. As the trial moves along, the plea deal may get withdrawn or seem unattractive to you. When you plead not guilty at the arraignment, the deal gets often removed. The prosecutor may present you another opportunity to make a deal. Your lawyer, on examining the evidence against you, and evaluating the strength of the case, he or she will advise you what is best.
However, if you feel that you have committed no offense and want the chance to get tried and tell your story, you can opt-out of the plea bargain. This is another significant decision one has to make after carefully weighing the options and discussing it with their lawyer.
Making a Decision for a Trial or a Plea Deal
When you get presented with a plea deal before your arraignment, you will often get conflicted about whether to accept it or go on trial. Making this decision on your own can be challenging or lead you the wrong way. Your lawyer will, however, advise you on the direction to take after you both examine the following factors of the case:
- How strong is the evidence against you by the prosecutor
- Whether you have other convictions before this case
- How tolerant you are in taking a risk.
Why One Should Get a Sentence Reduction
Sometimes a prosecutor may refuse to reduce the charges on DUI against you. However, it is possible to have your sentence reduced instead. This entails having the judge sentence you to less harsh penalties when you take a guilty plea for a DUI offense.
One of the advantages of taking a guilty plea when charged with a DUI offense that has a plea bargain is knowing your penalty before taking your plea.
If a defendant opts for a trial but loses it, they may end up with a DUI probation, but the fine charged would be hefty, or sometimes jail time. On taking a plea, on the other hand, the defendant will not be left anxious of the outcome because they eliminate the worst result with the plea deal.
Why You Should Seek Charge Reduction
When your lawyer can convince the prosecutor to reduce your charges to a lesser one, it is the best result of a plea bargain. This, however, is easier when faced with your first DUI offense if there were no injuries as a result. This does not mean that with any subsequent DUI offense you will not qualify for a reduction in your charges. Sometimes even when the DUI resulted in injuries, the circumstances of the offense and your criminal record can get your charges reduced.
Charge reduction has several advantages depending on the exact offense you get charged with. Some of these advantages are:
- You will not get a mandatory suspension of your driver’s license
- The fines you get charged are lower
- You may not get sentenced to jail time, or if you do, it is a short sentence
- You will not get ordered to attend a DUI program as a penalty
- The offense will carry less stigma compared to a drunk driving conviction
- Lesser charges also have less or no impact on your insurance premiums
Common Charge Reductions when faced with a DUI Offense
When charged with a DUI offense, your lawyer can negotiate with the prosecutor to get your charges reduced. Some of the prevalent offenses on charge reduction you may obtain include:
When your lawyer discusses charge reduction, the most common one, the prosecutor, will propose is wet reckless. This offense means you get convicted on reckless driving and a note indicating the offense involved the use of drugs or alcohol. The presence of an intoxicating substance is what constitutes the wet in the offense.
When your lawyer in the plea bargain gets you charged with wet reckless, it has the following advantages over a standard DUI conviction:
- If faced with jail time, it will be significantly less
- The fines charged will be lower
- You may not get your license suspended by the court, although the DMV may still suspend your license. Installing an ignition interlock device in your car will, however, get you to drive anywhere.
A wet reckless charge is, however, priorable, just like a DUI offense. This means, if you get charged with a subsequent DUI offense, during sentencing, the judge will take into consideration your prior conviction. For instance, if for your first DUI offense the charges were reduced to wet reckless, another offense will be considered a repeat offense.
This is another common offense a defendant on a DUI offense can get during a plea bargain. With this charge, your record will not include a note stating that the offense involved the use of drugs or alcohol. A conviction on dry reckless has some advantages over wet reckless conviction. These advantages include:
- A conviction on this offense is not considered as a prior in your record. This means, if you got convicted on this offense on your first DUI, a subsequent offense would not take into consideration your previous conviction. This means you get charged as a first offender, and the penalties will be that of a first DUI offense.
- The conviction on dry reckless may not negatively affect your insurance premiums compared to a DUI conviction or a wet reckless one.
On the other hand, however, the dry reckless charge is a misdemeanor. A conviction may increase your points in your record at the DMV. When you get many points within a given period, you may get your license suspended as a negligent driver.
Although this charge is not common in plea bargains, it, however, is an option. When the prosecutor has a weak case against a defendant, he or she would often offer this as a bargain. This offense gets prosecuted as a misdemeanor. Some of the penalties a defendant may face when convicted include fines, probation, and maybe jail time. A conviction also adds points to your driving record with the DMV.
In most cases, however, a conviction on this offense will not result in jail time or fines. The probation period is also relatively lower compared to that of a DUI conviction. For these reasons, it is a preferred outcome when charged with a DUI offense.
Drunk in Public
This is another charge a DUI defendant can get charged with during a plea bargain, although it is less common. This charge gets commonly used when there is evidence the defendant was drunk but no conclusive evidence that they were driving. For instance, if the defendant was intoxicated and passed out in a parked car, they were not arrested driving. The vehicle may have been parked on the roadside. But, one of the elements for a DUI conviction is to show the driver was driving at the time they got arrested.
The offense is, however, prosecuted as a misdemeanor. The penalties will include a jail sentence and a fine, although small. The offense will also not result in you earning points on your DMV record.
Drinking Alcohol in the Car
In some cases, a DUI offense can get bargained to that of drinking alcohol in the car. It is an offense for a passenger or driver to drink alcohol in the vehicle while in a public street. This is also a viable bargain when the prosecutor has a weak case. For instance, when the BAC is taken and gets found to be just at the limit or slightly above the border, the prosecutor may offer this charge as the bargain. The results from the chemical test may create doubt in the case. And to avoid a negative outcome on either side, this charge may be opted for.
This offense is an infraction that attracts a small fine. It also doesn’t increase points to your DMV Record.
Which Option is Best between Taking a Plea or Not Taking One?
The first thing when charged with a DUI offense is to engage an attorney to fight the allegations against you and offer you legal advice. Your attorney will analyze your case, the evidence against you and the circumstances of your arrest before advising you. Avoid making any move without your attorney.
After the evaluation, your attorney will give you the various outcomes from the allegations and the plea deals offered by the prosecution. He or she will advise you on the advantages of each based on your case. Once you are sufficiently informed, you may decide to take a plea deal or not.
Find a DUI Attorney Near Me
A DUI charge, whether a first one or a subsequent one, can alter your life in many ways. A conviction will also present negative consequences that can last for many years. When charged with this offense, you need a passionate attorney to defend you and avoid the harsh penalties. At Jonathan Franklin DUI Attorney, we have experience in fighting DUI charges in Los Angeles and will help you decide on the necessary legal issues, such as whether to take a plea or not. Call us at 323-464-6700 for more information.